We live in a fast-changing world. To prepare for the opportunities and challenges it brings, Dollar Academy is committed to offering young people innovative educational experiences. New ways of working demand new kinds of learning space; and the Academy is planning an ambitious new building – the Futures Institute.
Over the past two years we have been exploring how we can further develop our campus, recognising our current need for more teaching, collaboration and covered recreational spaces, as well as delivering our aspirations for the future.
We believe that we have designed a building that will not only provide the day-to-day space we need, but also help the Academy meet its ambitious educational and charitable aims. Our new Futures Institute will also be one of the country’s most sustainable buildings.
Alongside traditional subjects, pupils will have opportunities to work in new ways with experts from industry, universities and NGOs to collaborate and design solutions to real-world problems. To facilitate this, the Futures Institute will provide:
A range of stimulating learning environments – including innovative classrooms and laboratories, maker spaces, a digital prototyping lab and creative arts areas.
A flexible lecture theatre for talks, seminars, exhibitions and events delivered by influential speakers from the worlds of education, business, science, technology and the creative industries.
A centre for the sharing of emerging educational practice and technology, teacher collaboration and training.
We are fortunate to have been supported in our work by globally renowned architect, and former Dollar pupil Andrew Whalley OBE. Andrew – who has designed our new Institute – is the current Chairman of Grimshaw, and is the architect behind many award-winning structures including the Eden Project in Cornwall →, the International Terminal at Waterloo → and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in New York →. His input has ensured that our new building will be one of the most sustainable in the country.
The Futures Institute will be Scotland’s first building designed according to the principles of the Living Building Challenge. The Living Building Challenge is the most rigorous benchmark of sustainability in the built environment and our project will therefore also be of national significance from a sustainability and architectural perspective.
Are regenerative buildings that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community
Are self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site.
Create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them.
The current UK education system has largely been inherited from the 18th century, and aspects of it have not changed since then. There are, of course, traditions that must be cherished but, at the same time, the world around us is moving quickly. Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority are currently in the process of being reformed and replaced by more contemporary organisations. The singular focus on a single-subject exam-based curriculum is being questioned and the recent Hayward Review has proposed new interdisciplinary and skills-based qualifications.
At the same time, Learning for Sustainability has been identified as a national priority and a 25-point action plan launched in June 2023. The Cabinet Secretary for Education has said, “The strategy is about placing sustainability at the heart of the education system, revolutionising what and how students learn.”
These are the most significant reforms to Scottish education in a generation, and represent a profound shift in learning and teaching with the aim of better preparing young people for life beyond school.
Dollar Academy has long been at the forefront of education in Scotland and the current period of reform is no exception.
In May 2021 we successfully launched FIDA (The Futures Institute at Dollar Academy) with a vision to tackle three fundamental challenges – the need to find a compelling alternative to traditional classroom teaching and exams; equitable access to education; and sustainability.
FIDA provides young people at Dollar Academy and across Scotland with unique opportunities to undertake real-world challenges founded on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. These take the form of workshops, skills-based courses, design challenges and competitions, all of which are offered either in person and/ or via an online platform to enable the widest possible participation.
FIDA courses and projects share three key characteristics:
They are rooted in at least one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
They require pupils to think creatively and draw upon different areas of knowledge and learning in order to solve real-world problems.
They are co-designed and delivered with experts from industry and universities.
To date, over 600 pupils and teachers from across Scotland, and further afield, have benefited from FIDA resources – around 15% from Dollar Academy and 85% from local authority schools – all entirely free of charge:
Moving forward, we predict successful schools throughout the UK will, as is the norm at FIDA, make an increasing amount of time available for interdisciplinary working in collaboration with industry and academia. Professor Ken Muir, the independent advisor to the Scottish Government on the replacement of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has publicly endorsed FIDA:
“FIDA’s bold approach to education places the student experience at the centre, providing critical opportunities to engage with industry and stakeholders beyond the classroom. This aligns closely with some of the recommendations I made in my report to the Scottish Government on a future vision for Scottish education and I am highly impressed with what the initiative aims to do.”
Professor Ken Muir
FIDA & The New Futures Institute
Traditionally, schools have been designed in a compartmentalised way to support single-subject teaching. The new Futures Institute will provide a new kind of space that will support interdisciplinary learning and enable collaboration and cross-fertilisation between departments. Providing these spaces will facilitate new conversations and partnerships, spearheading future curriculum development.
All Dollar pupils will spend time in the Futures Institute and benefit from the new and exciting educational opportunities it supports. The Institute will also allow more young people from across Scotland to access these experiences. Our aim is to better prepare all our students for the opportunities and challenges of the world beyond the school gates.
“Scotland finds itself in a fast-changing, digital world. We aspire to play a leading role in that world, so it is vital that young people leave school with more than just knowledge taught in the classroom. FIDA is demonstrating the enormous potential of a new way of working that will equip young folk with the skills they need to thrive and succeed in the modern workplace. And this new way of working demands a new kind of space. I really feel that the proposed new building, with innovative spaces to think, design, create, collaborate and communicate, is exactly what FIDA needs to offer these vital educational experiences to young people from across our country. I strongly support this ambitious and important plan.”
Tim Allan CBE, Chair of the V&A Dundee and entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist
Central to the Academy’s founding principles is a core belief in the transformative power of education and our responsibility to support as many young people as possible in their development. FIDA’s free online provision and in-person workshops have allowed us to further develop our existing bursary provision in a modern and scalable way to children across the country, and beyond. We will be able to develop this important work even further in our new building.
“To be given access to this resource has been an absolute godsend and the support FIDA has given me has been immeasurable. More importantly, the resource being made available to my students has boosted their confidence and ability immensely.”
David Thomson, Head of Modern Studies at Morgan Academy in Dundee
“The weekend was excellent. It gave us a taste of the teamwork needed to make projects work. I am most grateful for the knowledge I gained from the architects. Model-making after the brainstorming sessions enabled us to see how to generate ideas into reality, and my favourite part was when we were all working as a large team to complete the artistic monument.”
S6 pupil from Glasgow who participated in FIDA’s ‘Design for the Planet’ architecture workshop during COP26
Guided by the principles of community wealth building, anchor institutions such as Dollar Academy have an opportunity to play defining roles in creating and reinforcing local economic ties. Through our new initiative we look forward to building more partnerships that will allow us to play an even greater role in the local community. A good example of this is the work we are currently doing with Scotland’s International Environment Centre (SIEC), Clacks Council and Stirling University.
SIEC is a pioneering collaboration that aims to create an ‘innovation community’ in the Forth Valley, driving the creation of a net zero regional economy and acting as a global exemplar of low-carbon growth. Through innovation and partnership, SIEC delivers transformational change in sustainable business practice, positioning the protection and enhancement of our natural resources as an enabler of economic prosperity, wellbeing, and a just transition to a net zero future.
“Scotland’s International Environment Centre is delighted to be collaborating with FIDA. The ideas and innovations being generated by young people are inspirational and, in partnership, FIDA and SIEC can enable those ideas and innovations to become reality as clean, sustainable businesses, technologies and services. This will play a central role in establishing Clackmannanshire as the headquarters of low-carbon innovation for Scotland.”
Dr John Rogers, Executive Director of the Research, Innovation & Business Engagement at the University of Stirling
With our new partners, we are exploring how a sustainable business accelerator could take the ideas generated by young people in our new Institute and turn them into reality, thereby fostering entrepreneurism and empowerment.
“Partnership working is a key value for Clackmannanshire Council. The chance to participate in FIDA through the SIEC is a tremendously exciting opportunity for our residents, the County and Scotland. I am particularly keen to see how we can build on the foundations already in place through FIDA and the SIEC Young Pathfinders to maximise opportunity and access to innovation, enterprise and ultimately better, well paid jobs for our young people.
By embedding the principles of Community Wealth Building into our partnership, I am optimistic that the benefits of our work will be shared across Clackmannanshire and beyond.”
Councillor Ellen Forson, Leader of Clackmannanshire Council
We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to help us with this ground-breaking initiative. Please complete the contact form below and a member of the project team will be in touch.